Tokina Opera 50mm – A Review from A Portrait Side

UPDATE 2019-05-15 -> Adobe just released a lens profile for Opera 50mm F/1.4 in the latest update of May 2019 (LR Classic 8.3 / Camera Raw 11.3)

Very often lately, and especially during my workshops and my photography lessons, many students ask me “What is my favorite focal length to use”. I always rephrase that question to “What is my preferred focal length for my style of work” because I believe that my response would be more honest and realistic this way and will probably help them understand better terms as perspective and composition.

So my honest response to this question is that 50mm is probably my preferred focal length to use these days, either for my professional photography work or just for my personal photos like in example when shooting some spontaneous photos of my daughters. It is the provided versatility of the 50mm lens that I can photograph nearly everything, changing my subject or purpose of the photo I want to capture, without changing lens ! I wrote probably because I didn’t always used the 50mm focal length as I do today, because I can remember myself that when I started photography I was more on the 24 to 35mm range. Today, after taking thousands of photos for different purposes and projects, and further evolving as a person and as a photographer, I can honestly say that my preferred focal is the 50mm for my style of work, and I use it nearly for everything. Weddings, portraits, landscape, astro, even for an interview I captured on video lately !

Nikon D850, Opera 50mm @ F/2, ISO 400, 1/200, Ambient Light

The Tokina Opera 50mm F/1.4 lens is a new premium lens for high end DSLR users, the first from the “Opera” series, and it clearly showing the new vision from Tokina for the future along of course with the similar design and performance “Firin” series for mirrorless users.

The new beautiful modern looking design, built with the highest standards, and of course the high quality optics provides superb resolution, amazing image quality and performance.

Since having this lens in my hands, it immediately became my go-to lens for portraiture either on location or on my studio, and on some wedding ceremonies I shot lately. The results really excited me !

The new Opera 50mm lens, with its almost zero optical distortion, can be used without issues on fashion, editorial and portrait photography in general, as the perspective it creates is similar to what the eye sees, and with the given field of view, can also help to frame properly the surrounding environment if it is interesting or when the occasion requires it.

Being more specific on portraits with the Opera 50mm, I must say that its the perfect lens for me and for this type of work, as it helps me create a more suitable environment between me and the model, as I’m on a proper distance to make any necessary adjustments, like in example on clothing or hairs, and also not being far away which means I don’t have to shout to correct in example the posing of the model, while the field of view makes me able to capture mid upper body details as well. So if I can say it with 4 words that would be “Close, but not close” !

Nikon D850, Opera 50mm @ F/5, ISO 64, 1/250, 1 x Godox AD600 with Honeycomb Grid

In addition to the above, the ring-shaped ultrasonic motor of the Opera 50mm lens provides amazing autofocus performance, while being very fast, very accurate and almost totally silent. And as said before, for this type of work, being totally silent provides optimal conditions to a portrait photographer, as it is not distracting the model in front of the camera, and makes the photo shooting even simpler.

For wedding photographers, I believe it is very important to have a fast and reliable autofocus system in your hands, as you have to constantly change positions and angles to frame properly your subjects, and the Opera 50mm didn’t let me down. Even on dim conditions, it was spot-on on my Nikon D850 and Nikon D800 for every photo I made, especially when shooting at f/1.4 as this is very critical. Also for weddings, and especially while in ceremonies, keeping some distance between the couple (and the priest) and the camera is very crucial and again the Opera 50mm can help you make some great photos.

Another benefit for this type of shooting, is that even if the light is more dimmed, having this premium lens with the bright f/1.4 aperture on your camera can also help you create some ambient light photos and portraits either indoors or outdoors with ease.

Nikon D850, Opera 50mm @ F/2, ISO 1250, 1/80, Ambient Light

Although the lens it heavy and big in physical size, especially if we also add in front the included lens hood, the lens is balancing perfectly on a pro level DSLR camera but on smaller bodies may be front weighted and may tire you on a long photo shooting.

The relatively big lens hood was more than useful in my latest wedding photoshooting, inside the church of the ceremony, where I had some front facing lights coming directly to the lens and I couldn’t avoid them when framing. And although the lens is performing great in terms of flaring, the lens hood really helped me to avoid any issues with them.

In terms of resolution and sharpness, in my opinion, the lens is phenomenal !

When you use this lens along with a very capable camera, the captured resolution is superb providing amazing details across the frame.

Nikon D850, Opera 50mm @ F/4, ISO 125, 1/200, 2 x Godox AD600 with Beauty Dish

Nikon D850, Opera 50mm @ F/5, ISO 125, 1/160, 2 x Godox AD600 with Beauty Dish

As stated in my first mini review of this lens, Chromatic Aberration can only be seen in extreme situations and nearly on 90% of the images I have captured so far with this lens is not visible. In portraiture CA is important especially when the light source is strong and situated behind or in the sides of the model as it can create unwanted issues in the edges of the models face. But as stated, the new Opera 50mm lens is handling CA more than great with no issues.

In portraiture sharpness plays a significant role when a big apertures like in example f/1.4 is used, for the object to be more distinct near the focus points and stand out of the blurry background.

In addition to the above, the minimum focus distance of 40cm is very important as you can come closer to your subject and by this way the photographer can specifically capture some fine details like in example eyelashes if that is the goal.

Nikon D850, Opera 50mm @ F/1.4, ISO 64, 1/800, 2 x Godox AD600 with Beauty Dish

Nikon D850, Opera 50mm @ F/1.4, ISO 125, 1/800, 2 x Godox AD600 with Beauty Dish


My final thoughts, from a portrait side perspective, is that I’m honestly very excited with this lens !

Its top performance on many levels and characteristics, will help a (portrait) photographer to accomplish in the best possible way his work and deliver some amazing quality images !

Shadows of Opera – A Portrait Project with Opera 50mm F/1.4 lens

More info and further details about the project can be found here : Shadows Of Opera